THE V. Reverend Protopresbyter Dr. Stelyios S. Muksuris, Ph.D. [BA, MDiv, MLitt, PhD, ThD (post-doc.)], serves the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church in Aliquippa, PA, and is Professor of Liturgy and Languages at SS. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. A native of Boston and a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA, he received his postgraduate degrees and his doctorate in liturgical theology from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. He is an active member of several academic societies (AAR, SL, SOL, BSC, OTSA), a frequent conference speaker both nationally and internationally, the author of a monograph, Economia and Eschatology: Liturgical Mystagogy in the Byzantine Prothesis Rite (Boston, 2013), and the author of an introductory chapter for a textbook on Christianity, as well as numerous papers and studies in theological journals. He is a frequent consultant on liturgical matters for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Christ is risen!
There is an ancient myth that speaks of a magical lake, in whose waters everything reflected in it (including people) appears as gold. Grass, rocks, and even the plants growing alongside the banks of this lake have a golden appearance as reflected on the surface of its water. However, outside of this magical lake’s waters, everything retains its actual color. The grass and plants are green, the sky is blue, and the rocks are gray and black. Imagine a golden world filled with golden objects and people!
The Priceless Value of Love
Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to tell us that we need not imagine such a world. He came to tell us that we already live in such a world. How, you may ask? How is it possible to live in such a paradise, when we realize how imperfect our world is? We clearly live in a fallen world: a) sickness and death constantly hover around us; b) natural disasters abound in our world; c) people hurt and cheat one another. What lake is there that can reflect the best of the creation around us?
The mythical lake of antiquity, that makes everything appear golden and bright and wonderful, can be likened to Christian love. Through the eyes of Christian love, we look well beyond outer appearances and deeper into the intrinsic value of every human being and every object. Christian love reflects only man’s sublime greatness and beauty.
In Christian love, we see the world through God’s eyes, not through our own eyes. Through the eyes of Christian love, even our worst enemies appear beautiful. This is because in Christian love, we look beyond the outer appearances and actions of those who have actually hurt us. We see the God who brought such people to life, as He did for us. In Christian love we see man as God intended him to be, not as the man he has become. In Christian love, we see the world through God’s eyes, not through our own eyes.
The Glory of God’s Sacrifice
During this current 40-day paschal period of feasting, we celebrate God’s magnificent victory over death but most especially, His awesome expression of love toward the world. God does not see in His accusers and executioners enemies to be despised, but beloved children in dire need of correction and salvation. For this reason, God offers each of us the freedom to choose how we wish to see others and the world around us.
Do we wish to look at one another through our own biases, which in God’s eyes are meaningless and childish, or do we wish to see the golden glow of everything and everyone around us? Do we wish to taint the image of God in others with our own misguided dislikes or prejudices, or do we wish to look beyond the flesh and behold the true spirit of God’s most creation? Which reality do we believe—our own or God’s?
What makes us think that truth in our understanding is actually truth? And what makes us think that our reality is actually reality? Is it not merely relative to our own experiences? How do we know that the world around us is not intrinsically golden or good or holy? Have we painted a multicolored picture of the world around us, darkening our enemies but highlighting our friends?
The righteous Job, after suffering the seemingly endless trials in his life, finally is visited by God, who reveals to him the truth that he failed to understand about his condition. And Job responds to the Lord: “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know . . . I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42.3, 5-6). Job’s vision of the world was limited until God really opened up his eyes to behold the truth as it really was, as God saw it.
Similarly, Christ’s healing of the blind man opened up the latter’s spiritual eyes also, to envision God’s love and power to which His accusers were sorrowfully blind. In his healing, the blind man embraced God’s love and looked upon the world with compassion and understanding. He was no longer cynical of others, nor did he feel disdained or ridiculed. No longer did he live the reality of the fallen world, but rather the reality of the transformed and glorified world, transformed and glorified by God’s radiant love.
Our Role as Orthodox Christians
It is true that the Lord God formed each of us to be co-creators with Him. Unfortunately, however, we often like to create our own realities rather than to create within God’s reality. In other words, we like to create magical lakes that essentially reflect images as we wish to see them and not as they actually are. Our lakes reflect our likes and dislikes, our insecurities and securities, and our favoritisms and biases. And what is especially sad is that we typically refuse to do anything to alter the images on those lakes.
Have we become independent builders of lakes, unwilling to follow the instructional manual—our Faith—to build the proper lake? If we cannot see the goodness in all human beings, if we cannot see God in other people, why do we even bother believing in God? God sees the goodness in each of us, so much so that He came into the world to die for us out of perfect love. What places us above God to reject others?
This festive period of Easter is the best time to reflect on God’s intended truth and reality for us. Is it true that we all possess lakes that reflect for each of us our own smorgasbord of images? When we look upon the waters, do we essentially see individuals as they appear to us physically in person, or do we behold something greater when we gaze upon them?
Through the eyes of true Christian love, God’s glory is reflected in man’s glory. Let us then cease being “children of the flesh and become children of the Kingdom,” that the eyes of faith may replace the eyes of bias and that God’s reality may become ours as well. Amen.
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